You want to guess what that is? Intensely red, beautifully made, flexible, terminated with classy plugs on both ends? It’s the Red Velvet series audio cables, beautifully hand-made on the paradise island of Bali.
I suppose most people if asked would name similar associations with Bali, whether they had a chance to go there or know it only from postcards – fabulous beaches, huts on the water, palm trees, sun, crystal clear ocean – a dreamed paradise on Earth. Perhaps these are the only associations most people have with this beautiful Indonesian island. Unless… you are audiophiles looking for exotic products that more often than not offer great value and, importantly (!), a comparable, or at least similar, performance to products of renown brands. If you belong to this group of music lovers who are willing to look beyond a limited pool of the most famous brands, then you have probably already heard the name Vermöuth Audio. It is a small manufacturer based in the capital of the island, the city of Denpasar, which a few years ago introduced its products to the world markets and has already achieved a considerable level of success.
The company was founded by Mr. Hendry Ramli in 2010. Previously, he ran a store with high-end audio products, and did some repairs for his customers, which is a great way to gain audio-related knowledge and experience. Only later, persuaded by audiophiles who were looking for well-performing and at the same time inexpensive cables, he founded a company that would develop and manufacture a wide spectrum of audio cables. They started with two models at really low prices (just over $ 100), but since then the lineup has been developed significantly. Currently, there are six models of interconnects, three of which are also available in the balanced version (XLR), seven speaker cables, five power chords, plus bulk cables. The latest addition to the portfolio is the Red Velvet USB cable – hopefully soon I’ll get my hands on it as well. And this is still only a part, although the most important one, of the current portfolio, because it also includes loudspeakers and drivers, an integrated amplifier, anti-vibration feet, and variety of connectors, used in Vermöuth Audio’s own cables but also sold separately.
Since we have had a distributor of this exotic brand in Poland for a while, some of our local audiophiles already had a chance to get a “taste” of the cables from Bali. It actually was the 4HiFi, based in my home town, Gliwice, that provided me with a set of Red Velvet series cables in their latest versions for testing. The loom consisted of a balanced interconnect (the mk III version), as well as a pair of speaker cables and a power chord. Normally, the XLR cable would be a problem for me, because all my source components feature only unbalanced outputs, so I would have to use the IC between my preamplifier and power amplifiers. This time, however, thanks to the Weiss DAC501 that I’d been testing for quite a long time (see the review HERE), the problem solved itself, as I could used the Red Velvet mk III XLR to connect the Swiss D/A Converter with balanced inputs of my GrandiNote Shinai Class A solid-state integrated. Testing the power and speaker cables in my system did not, obviously, constitute any issues. Although when in the so-called meantime, I hosted the Boulder 866 integrated, using the banana-terminated speaker cable was out of the question, as the American device accepts only spades (whether it makes sense or not is a topic for another discussion).
Design & Features
Hendry offers just very basic information about the design of his cables, and it seems he doesn’t really like to brag about their performance. He assumes, and he is not alone in such approach among cable manufacturers, that it is the performance of his products that should appeal to the customers, not word beautifully crafted by marketing specialists. The potential buyers are to judge the sound themselves and make purchase decisions based on their own assessment, tests conducted preferably in their own systems. So having just few information about the design, before actually testing them I took a closer look at each of the Red Velvet cables. Let’s start with the fact, that despite the (relatively) low prices, these cables are delivered in really nice, I’d even say, elegant boxes. Is it an important feature of these (or any) products, you may ask? One may say it’s not, simply because after taking cables (or any other component) out of the cardboard box, one may just put (or even throw) the latter away and never even see it again. Which does not change the fact that it is simply nice to get one’s hands on a nicely packaged product and many will appreciate it, as I did. The Japanese audio manufacturers are true masters in this respect, and Vermöuth Audio is following in their footsteps.
What’s more, the cables themselves look damn good! (said a man who doesn’t even particularly like the red color). They owe their great looks not only to these high quality, intensely red jackets, but also to equally impressive, well-made and eye-catching plugs. I could name many more expensive products from renown competitors that don’t look half as good as the Red Velvets. Judging by the photos of other Vermöuth Audio cables (as these are the first ones I am dealing with) I believe that it is the Red Velvet that, despite not being the most expensive line, may be the prom king (or queen) of the whole lineup. The XLR plugs featured in the reviewed interconnect, a proprietary product of Vermöuth Audio, sport a brass body, while the contact elements are made of rhodium plated tellurium copper. As the manufacturer emphasizes, all elements are made of non-magnetic metals. So not only does the Red Velvet mk III XLR’s jackets look as if they came from some top shelf product of one of the biggest cable manufacturers, but also the plugs, at least with the quality of workmanship, finish and design, can boldly compete with industry leaders. And as the tests have later proven, they also get the job done in terms of performance.
All Red Velvet cables are quite flexible (even the power cable is not too stiff), but they do resist when you try to twist them, i.e. when you have to turn the connector to fit it into the socket. They won’t damage the sockets but it will take some effort to fit them in. I am talking primarily about the interconnect and the power cable, because the speaker cables feature thin, quite long and flexible sections on both ends, separate for „+” and „-” wires, in the case of the reviewed pair terminated with very nice banana plugs. These flexible endings make plugging these cables in very convenient. The aforementioned banana plugs are also a product of the Vermöuth Audio. Their contacts are made of rhodium plated tellurium copper, while the bodies of aluminum and carbon fiber.
As for the interconnect, the manufacturer mentions that it represents already the third generation of this model, and that its development was extremely difficult, because the previous ones were very successful, offering an exceptional performance to price ratio. Assuming that the new, better version was not to be significantly more expensive, the development process took a very long time but it was finalized successfully. Manufacturer points out following key features of the mk III version: multi-size OCC copper conductor, PTFE tape protection combine with Al Mylar wrapped, braided OCC copper shield, airtube spacer & suspension, high Quality & flexible jacket, tellurium copper direct rhodium plated XLR plug conductor, black Coated Brass Shell Connector.
The interconnect belongs to the third line (among six) from the top of the range and so does the Red Velvet speaker cable. This latter is a development of another one, currently obsolete, model called Black Curse (interesting name for any audio product, by the way). As the manufacturer claims, more advanced technologies, improved cable geometry and higher-class materials were used in it. The cable uses a hybrid UPOCC copper conductor consisting of wires of various thicknesses with a total cross-section of 9AWG. The conductors are wrapped with special paper and cotton and placed in Teflon tubes and the air acts as a dielectric. The cable is fitted into the same (in terms of color and quality) intensely red jacket, in this case with a diameter of 19mm. They may be terminated either with banana plugs or spades, both developed and manufactured in-house by Vermöuth Audio.
The power cable is the middle (third from the top or bottom) model in the current lineup. In its case, we know that each one consists of 140 UP-OCC copper conductors, and the total cross-section is 13AWG. The conductors are placed in an air-filled Teflon tube, which ensures the proper arrangement of individual wires, and at the same time constitutes a damping element that removes vibrations inside the cable. The latter features braided shielding (the manufacturer does not explain what it is made of) and additionally wrapped with Al-Mylar tape to reduce interference. The finished product’s diameter is 16mm and it is quite flexible (for an audiophile power cable). It is the only one among the tested cables that has not been terminated with Vermöuth Audio’s own plugs (they simply don’t make such plugs, at least for now). Instead, Hendry decided to use high-quality ones made by Cardas.
I made a plan for this test to be executed in four stages. In the first three, each of the tested cables would individually replace my reference cables in the system that I use every day, being the only Vermöuth Audio product used during the particular stage. The last planned stage was supposed to be a comparison of full sets – Red Velvet vs ones that I use. I personally like to test full sets coming from one manufacturer, or even better from one line, as it often results in a synergy effect, which further enhances its impact on the sound. But, as you surely know, even the best-laid plans often go awry …
I started with balanced interconnect, the Red Velvet mk III XLR, which was used to connect the Weiss DAC501 with the GrandiNote Shinai integrated amplifier. It was compared to the KBL Sound Zodiac XLR that I use for balanced connections, which is about 50% more expensive. The differences between the two models were quite clear and easy to spot. The Vermöuth Audio’s tonal balance was slightly shifted up and its sound was not as weighted, as full as with the Zodiac at the lower part of the range. It doesn’t mean that the sound gets lean or dry with it – none of the above. What Red Velvet mk III XLR provides is a very well-controlled, clean, crisp, vivid and resolving sound throughout the whole range. Each of these features is delivered at a level that you usually need to look for among competitors that are twice as expensive. It is also remarkable because the tested interconnect is at the same time very smooth, fluid and coherent, and thus definitely musical and highly enjoyable.
In terms of bass, Vermöuth Audio does not provide such powerful, bass-rich sound as its Polish competitor, but it amazes with an exceptional definition and control. The low tones are therefore fast, tight, focused and, when needed, they do go deep, even with a slam, but a clean, fast one, without adding anything from themselves, without bloating the lowest notes, without „fattening them up”. All this translates into great timing, and thus also impressive pace and rhythm. This worked really well, for example, in rock recordings, which often do not overwhelm with recording/production quality, which in turn leads often to a bloated, sluggish, boomy bass or sharp, grainy treble. The Red Velvet IC in most cases was able to „organize” the bass performance and smooth out the treble gently. And because it is a wonderfully expressive, enthusiastic cable on top of all that, all rock or blues madness sounds damn good with it.
Having said that, I have to add that listening to acoustic and classical music with the Red Velvet mk III XLR was just as enjoyable. The Vermöuth Audio cable is able to accurately reproduce the timbre and texture of a guitar, violin, piano or double bass, using every bit of information provided by the recording. It builds a full, open, air-filled, spacious and natural musical image. It creates the effect of fresh, energetic, but also fully controlled performance. It should be a great fit for most systems, especially those that already offer a rich, dense, slightly warm performance (tube and class A amplifiers come to mind first), where it will introduce a boost of energy, fill it with air, add some openness and lively enthusiasm to its presentation.
The next stage of the test involved the Red Velvet power cord used with the Weiss DAC501. It replaced my trusted LessLoss DFPC Signature. The differences in sound resulting from this switch were definitely less prominent than in the case of the interconnect. Both cables moderately, but noticeably energize and enliven the presentation. The sound with them is fast, taut, muscular, but we are talking about Bruce Lee type “muscles” not Arnold Schwarzenegger’s. There is no lack of clarity, good resolution, and the pace and rhythm is great. The bass is powerful, goes down really low, but it is very clearly defined. Using again the “muscle” comparison, I would say that there is not a gram of fat on it. There is no artificial hardening or contouring of bass notes, and if the recording allows it, the low tones are focused, well defined and differentiated. When it comes to acoustic music, e.g. a double bass, the Red Velvet introduces a slight shift in the balance between wood and strings towards the latter, but it is just barely noticeable. Since the double bass in many recordings sounds a bit „too fat”, the influence of the Red Velvet is often perceived as welcomed.
At the top of the band, the sound is also very clean, vibrant, without even a hint of sharpening, graininess or brightening, but rather smooth and fluid (justifying the Velvet part of the line’s name). The midrange is rich, colorful, open, strongly saturated with energy, but the kind that listeners can feel its there without even witnessing its explosion. It is there, ready for action at any moment, but it is not used unless the recording actually requires it. So when there is no need to release more energy, the Red Velvet does not impose itself with it only to wow the listener. The coherence of the entire frequency range, fluidity and naturalness of the sound complete the long list of the Red Velvet power cable’s impressive qualities.
In short, its character does not differ significantly from that of the Red Velvet interconnect. This is also not the pinnacle of the cable industry, but it offers a well-balanced (even if the tonal balance is slightly shifted up) sound without any particular peaks or pits along the frequency range, that will easily invigorate those slightly sluggish, or too dark / thick / slow-paced components and systems. On the other hand, even if you combine it with an expensive and very transparent, clean, even-sounding device such as the Weiss DAC501, the Red Velvet, despite its moderate price, is unlikely to constitute a performance bottleneck or at least its qualities will counter-balance one or two slightly less impressive features. In my opinion, it can be used with many sources or amplifiers that cost several kPLN, and the money saved in this way can be spent on higher quality components or … simply on music. I would only avoid combining it with components that already sound bright, super-detailed or sharp on their own – it will probably not do them any good.
Last but not least, the time has come for the speaker cable to prove its worth. I plugged it between the GrandiNote MACH4 speakers and the Shinai amplifier that comes from the same Italian brand. I compared it with my LessLoss Anchorwave that has been my reference cable for several years already (not because it is the best SC in the world, but it’s good, reliable and I know its sound really well). And again the type of differences between these two repeated itself, but this time to a slightly more noticeable degree, similarly to the comparison of interconnects. The Red Velvet’s tonal balance, compared to LessLoss, is also shifted a bit up. It does not quite match the LL in terms of richness, of how weighted the sound is, but when needed it is fully capable of delivering a powerful, deep, fast punch followed by proper sustain and decay of bass notes. It does control and define the lower part of the range, as well as everything above, very well, which translates also to a good differentiation. There is proper speed, energy, great pace and rhythm, dynamics, and a good resolution that allows listeners to appreciate the high-quality recordings and, without much effort, to look into the deeper layers of the music. The more so that the spatial aspect, good definition and placement of large phantom images on the stage push the presentation to an even higher level. Neither the treble nor the midrange are as dense as with my cable, but … on many discs it actually suited me. It introduced more life, enthusiasm and air to them delivering a new, even if not so refined as with the best cables, level of fun.
Believe it or not, but I actually tried to treat each listening session of the three Vermöuth Audio Red Velvet cables as a separate event. Obviously, I couldn’t just forget what I’d already heard, but I tried to focus on the currently tested model and its influence on the sound of my system. Once I did finished these three stages I read all of the above text and it was pretty clear to me, that all Red Velvet cables share much more than just these intensely red jackets. Their performances also consistently follow a similar direction or pattern, if you will, of performance and it does not necessarily has much (apart from the color) to do with velvet. And in my opinion it’s a good thing – one just knows what to expect when adding another product from this series to the system.
Because it seems to me that if someone likes one of these cables, which I can easily imagine, even if the budget won’t allow them to purchase the whole loom at once, they will end up using a full set of Red Velvets sooner or later. And it is a „safe” path to follow, because, as I learned after finally listening to all of them together, it does not lead to an excessive accumulation of common features of these models. The tonal balance does not shift any higher when adding a second or third Red Velvet cable, the sound does not get too bright, too thin. All these elements remain on a similar level, and its rather the evident advantages of all of them that add up to a small, but still, degree. So let me skip the part where I repeat myself once more pointing out the same qualities now presented by the whole loom. I shall only admit that I spent a lot of time with a full set of the Vermöuth Audio Red Velvet cables, not only during the testing, but also when just listening to music for fun.
The performance of the Vermöuth Audio Red Velvet set was not better than that of my everyday set, but first of all, it wasn’t also worse, just different, and secondly, it was also surprisingly (considering the price range they belong to) good and made listening to music fun and joy. For me, this is actually one of the most important features of any audio component. It should provide highly enjoyable, satisfactory performance, create an experience that makes me smile. The Red Velvet cables did just that and more and sometimes they were even more fun to listen to the music with, that many more expensive cables from other manufacturers. Yes, those significantly more expensive ones usually provide even better, more refined performance, better low-level resolution and selectivity, but is it something we really always need or can’t live without? The Red Velvets play music joyfully, with enthusiasm and energy but combine it also with a very good control of the whole presentation. They are open, crisp, vibrant, vivid and still smooth. They do offer a very good resolution, but they don’t emphasize details – these are just means to an end – which is a rich, smooth performance with a proper flow of music. They can deliver a punch, but a clean, tight, fast, not fat, one. They present a rich (but not excessively), colorful (but not colored), natural (very!) sounding midrange, that is at the same time clean, transparent and orderly, and they do not add any warmth or richness that is not there in the recording.
In systems that are a bit too slow, bass-heavy, too warm sounding, which lack a little (because these cables will not work miracles and will not change the dominant features of the system) control and definition, the Vermöuth Audio Red Velvet will be capable of improving these aspects to some extent, and adding some air, openness and energy to the mix. In a well balanced setups they may contribute to a proper flow of music, open the sound up just a bit, maybe even improve them in terms of pace and rhythm. And only in those that already lack in terms of richness of the sound, that sound bright or harsh, adding Red Velvet cables might not be the best choice. In such case you may need „warmer” cables. While these are (relatively) inexpensive cables, they are definitely not the right tools to warm up performance, add more weight or richness to (usually) cheap systems that may need it. I definitely recommend listening to the the Vermöuth Audio Red Velvet cables in your own system (this is the only way to make sure that they match it and your individual expectations/taste properly), even if you plan to buy other, more expensive models/brands. Perhaps the Red Velvet loom will allow you to save a bit of money, and if it does you should use it to buy more music expanding your collection and musical horizons. Which I always strongly recommend as it is the music that should be the main focus of any music system owner!
Prices (when reviewed):
- Vermöuth Red Velvet speaker cable: 2910 PLN / 1,8m, plus 220 PLN for each additional 30cm
- Vermöuth Red Velvet Mk.III RCA analogue IC: 1650 PLN / 1m plus 170 PLN for each additional 25 cm Vermouth Red Velvet Mk.III XLR balanced analogue IC: 2360 PLN / 1m plus 275 zł for each additional 25cm
- Vermöuth Red Velvet power cable: 2400 PLN / 1m plus 250 PLN for each additional 30cm
Manufacturer: Vermöuth Audio
Polish distributor: 4HiFi
- Analogue front end: J.Sikora Standard MAX turntable, J.Sikora KV12 tonearm, AirTight PC-3, phonostages: Grandinote Celio mk IV, ESE Lab Nibiru V 5.
- Digital source: a passive, custom PC with WIN10, Roon, Fidelizer Pro 7.10, JCat USB Femto card with iFi power supply, Hdplex linear power supply for PC, JCAT USB Isolator
- D/A Converter: LampizatOr Pacific +Ideon Audio 3R Master Time (USB signal regenerator)
- Power amplifier: GrandiNote Shinai, LampizatOr Metamorphosis
- Preamplifier: Audia Flight FLS1
- Loudspeakers: GrandiNote MACH4, Ubiq Audio Model ONE Duelund Edition.
- Interconnects: Hijiri Million, Less Loss Anchorwave, TelluriumQ Ultra Black, KBL Sound Zodiac XLR, TelluriumQ Silver Diamond USB
- Speaker cables: LessLoss Anchorwave
- Power cables: LessLoss DFPC Signature, Gigawatt LC-3
- Power: Gigawatt PF-2 MK2 and Gigawatt PC-3 SE Evo+; a custom power line with Gigawatt LC-Y in-wall cable; Gigawatt G-044 Schuko and Furutech FT-SWS-D (R)
- Racks: Base VI, Rogoz Audio 3RP3/BBS
- Anti-vibration accessories: ROGOZ-AUDIO SMO40 and CPPB16 platforms and ROGOZ AUDIO BW40MKII feet, Franc Accessories Ceramic Disc Slim Feet and Wood Block Platform